SYNOPSIS OF THIS THESIS
The aim of this thesis is to more fully understand and explain the binding mechanism of organic molecules to the Au(111) surface and to explore the conduction of such molecules. It consists of five discreet chapters connected to each other by the central theme of “The Single Molecule Device: Conductance and Binding”. There is a deliberate concentration on azine linkers, in particular those with a 1,10-phenanthroline-type bidentate configuration at each end. This linker unit is called a “molecular alligator clip” and is investigated as an alternative to the thiol linker unit more commonly used.
Chapter 1 places the work in the broad context of Molecular Electronics and establishes the need for this research.
In Chapter 2 the multiple break-junction technique (using a Scanning Tunnelling Microscope or similar device) was used to investigate the conductance of various molecules with azine linkers. A major finding of those experiments is that solvent interactions are a key factor in the conductance signal of particular molecules. Some solvents interfere with the molecule’s interaction with and attachment to the gold electrodes. One indicator of the degree of this interference is the extent of the enhancement or otherwise of the gold quantized conduction peak at 1.0 G0. Below 1.0 G0 a broad range for which the molecule enhances conduction indicates that solvent interactions contribute to a variety of structures which could bridge the electrodes, each with their own specific conductance value. The use of histograms with a Log10 scale for conductance proved useful for observing broad range features.
Another factor which affects the conductance signal is the geometric alignment of the molecule (or the molecule-solvent structure) to the gold electrode, and the molecular alignment is explored in Chapters 3 for 1,10-phenanthroline (PHEN) and Chapter 4 for thiols.
In Chapter 3 STM images, electrochemistry, and Density Functional Theory (DFT) are used to determine 1,10-phenanthroline (PHEN) structures on the Au(111) surface. It is established that PHEN binds in two modes, a physisorbed state and a chemisorbed state. The chemisorbed state is more stable and involves the extraction of gold from the bulk to form adatom-PHEN entities which are highly mobile on the gold surface. Surface pitting is viewed as evidential of the formation of the adatom-molecule entities. DFT calculations in this chapter were performed by Ante Bilic and Jeffery Reimers.
The conclusions to Chapter 3 implicate the adatom as a binding mode of thiols to gold and this is explored in Chapter 4 by a timely review of nascent research in the field. The adatom motif is identified as the major binding structure for thiol terminated molecules to gold, using the explanation of surface pitting in Chapter 3 as major evidence and substantiated by emergent literature, both experimental and theoretical. Furthermore, the effect of this binding mode on conductance is explored and structures relevant to the break-junction experiment of Chapter 2 are identified and their conductance values compared. Finally, as a result of researching extensive reports of molecular conductance values, and having attempted the same, a simple method for predicting the conductance of single molecules is presented based upon the tunneling conductance formula.